Sunday, March 25, 2007

the lesson of the moth
by Don Marquis

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

I'm not one for poetry but this I really, really like. Someone sent it to me yesterday.

To the moth I say, "I feel you, brother," though I do plan to stick around a while.

I think a lot of people -- a lot more than would ever admit or even realize it -- remain, hold out, trudge on... out of guilt. As painful as it may be to wait out the hours between waking and sleep, they just couldn't live with the pain they'd cause their loved ones if they decided to depart. Not that they'd have to live with it, but... guilt is largely an anticipatory emotion.

And there are other factors, like hope that this elusive "beauty," or even just a reason to pull back the covers when daylight draws you out of dreaming, is just around the corner. Someone once told me that for years and years she just went through the motions, day by day. "It's not that I wanted to end it all," she said, "but for the most part, I was waiting to die." It wasn't, it isn't, easy to admit that I understood exactly what she meant. If you've ever wondered what it's like to live with medium-grade depression, that pretty much sums it up. (There's also a proprietary blend of guilt, anxiety and self-doubt mixed in; think of it as the Cold Stone Creamery of mental illness.) It's an utter lack of motivation -- no drive to live, no drive to die, you're just carried along by your heartbeat day after day after day.

I think the number of humans who are truly happy to exist -- not like that kamikaze moth but for the long haul -- is... actually, quite large. My first thought was just a few, but globally speaking there are probably far more out there who look forward to tomorrow's wonders than those who wait for the end of their days. We just don't see them, except maybe on the Discovery Channel, because they live in less "civilized" parts of the world.

My take on the secret to happiness? Decivilize: Downsize, simplify, live basically and indulge a few simple passions.

like human beings
used to be


inowpronounceyou said...

Tht's just absolutely fantastic advice. VERY well said.

Barbara said...

Does this mean that if we could just reverse evolution we would all be in great shape? That we taken a good thing past the point of being good? As I read this post, I could only think this sort of medium-grade depression affects those of us who have enough money not to have to concentrate on survival but not enough in the way of emotional support to rise above it. That really sucks, yes?

Old Lady said...

I think what makes the depression medium grade is the person has a will for more in life and is doing what is necessary to get past the depression. I know this to be true. Maintaining a routine maintains a semblance of sanity, keeping parts of the mind clear enough to help itself heal.

Anonymous said...

people are lazy by their nature, they hope for something better to happen, but without doing a thing for that, passively. that hope on the background of laziness is what keeps us from being active. don't think that stone age people were different.
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